Today B'Tselem publishes a new report that warns of the state's ongoing efforts to expel some one thousand Palestinians who live in caves in South Mt. Hebron. The report's findings suggest that, having failed to expel the residents by means of legal proceedings, the state is attempting to systematically wear them down until they leave the area .
In the 1970s, Israel declared the area in which the cave residents live a "closed military area," and first expelled them in 1999. In March 2000, the High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction, returning the residents to the area and preventing the state from expelling them until the court reaches a final decision in the matter. Since then, the residents have lived in an impossible situation with the threat of expulsion hanging over their heads.
The report describes the residents' life under the constant threat of nearby settlers, who regularly attack them and destroy their property. A survey conducted by B'Tselem found that eighty-eight percent of the residents have been victims of settler violence, or witnessed such violence toward a first degree relative. The residents of two villages were forced to abandon their homes in 2000, due the increase in settler violence. The police do little to enforce the law against the settlers, and the army does even less. In some cases, soldiers have even assisted the settlers in carrying out their violent acts.
Israel contends that expulsion of the cave residents is justified as an "imperative military need," and because the cave residents are not permanent residents of the area. B'Tselem's report proves that these contentions are baseless, and demonstrates that Israel has always sought to annex the area and expand the nearby settlements.